LaFayette was encouraged to share his life’s story by James Findlay, Professor emeritus of history, a noted historian of recent American religious history. He has used oral history extensively in his research and writing.
To ensure that LaFayette’s history was preserved, Findlay, with support from Tim Tierney, director of URI’s audiovisual center, recorded LaFayette’s story on videotape.
The interviews, recorded between 2002-2003, resulted in 12 hours of commentary and reflection on the life and work of LaFayette. Findlay interviewed the activist about his childhood, his years in the Civil Rights Movement, and his current activities, including his efforts to establish 10 nonviolence centers around the globe.
Findlay said that the footage is simply raw, unedited, historic data, primarily for the use of historians, students of the Civil Rights Movement, or even LaFayette himself if he ever sits long enough to write his autobiography.
Findlay, who resides in Peace Dale, worked with University Archives and Library Special Collections Associate Professor Sarina Wyant of Newport to prepare an index and transcripts of the footage to facilitate its use by historians. In 2008, thanks to a URI Foundation grant and funding from the Office of the President, the finding aid to the Bernard LaFayette Oral History Project is available along with the tapes online.
Oral history preserved: Bernard LaFayette Jr., Library Dean Dave Maslyn, President Robert L. Carothers, and Professor Emeritus James Findlay at LaFayette’s office.